1. Education
Kallie Szczepanski

Japan's Fading Ninja Traditions

By November 24, 2012

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A koto player blissfully unaware that a ninja is about to strike

For centuries, Japan's ninjas lived in the shadows, secret, working class counterparts to the famed samurai who occupied the top of the feudal social structure. Ninja clans existed among the farmers and peddlers; samurai would hire them to perform spying and assassinations, jobs considered too dishonorable for the warrior class themselves.

Among the descendants of those ninja clans, masters have kept alive knowledge of ancient fighting, spying and medical techniques up to the present day. Now, however, the tradition is fading out, and the current generation of elderly masters have announced that they will be the last of the ninjas.

Detail from print by Toyokuni Utagawa, Library of Congress Prints and Photos Collection.

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